As a FISO on Scottish Information I must respond to Prof Michael Bagshaw’s letter (December) ‘Stay quiet… or maybe use a listening squawk’, and in particular the rather dismissive sentence ‘A basic service gives you nothing but the QNH…’.
Receiving an Air Traffic Service (ATS), even just a basic service, goes far deeper than the provision of information. As with all ATSS, a basic service also incorporates an alerting service, somebody to put the wheels in motion if something were to go wrong with your flight.
Imagine you needed to declare a Mayday — would you rather be in receipt of a service where the FISO/ ATCO has your details, aircraft type, POB, general location/route, departure and destination airfields already and in broad terms knows about you, or blind calling on a frequency to give all those details whilst handling said emergency?
Many of our pilots check in on frequency, are put on a basic service then get on with their flight, we often only hearing from them again when they leave the frequency. Others utilise everything at our disposal: as well as the QNH we offer airfield weathers, have access to a weather radar, direct lines to other airfields and ATSUS for coordination, and can provide up to date Danger Area information to name a few — and of course can instigate any action required if a Mayday is declared. Indeed, one of your previous ILAFFT indirectly references one of the Scottish Information FISOS and is a great example of how receiving a basic service can really make a difference to your day.
It is also of interest to note the sentence ‘…the ATC unit knows who you are and can contact you if they need to?’ On a listening squawk the ATC unit does not know who you are, they do not know your callsign, aircraft type or intentions. The ATC unit would only ‘know who you are’ after establishing direct two-way communication with you, obtaining your details and identifying you, in other words putting you on a service! Otherwise you are just a listening squawk on their radar to keep an eye on.
I understand from pilots who use our service that there is quite a difference between Scottish Information and London Information due to the volume of traffic that uses each service respectively. However I would be disappointed if new pilots, or pilots who fly largely in Northern England and across Scotland, were to take the Professor’s comments on board and decide not to request a basic service when one is available; it could make all the difference one day. Jake Barley, FISO/DTS